Dusty Baker walked around Wrigley Field at 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, taking small handfuls of a dirt-like substance from a bag and spreading it throughout the infield and outfield, sort of like Dusty Appleseed.
Baker wouldn't reveal the bag's contents or why he was doing it, but the mojo seemed to work during another wild and crazy affair between the Cubs and St. Louis Cardinals.
Moises Alou went 5-for-5 with four RBIs, driving in the go-ahead run with a single in a two-run eighth off Woody Williams, one day after an umpire's call robbed Alou of the hero's role and led to an ejection.
"We've been lacking the big hits all year," said Mark Grudzielanek, who tied the game at 7-7 with an RBI triple. "For Alou to have a game like this, to get a great hitter like that going and swinging the bat like he can, it's huge for this team. Hopefully this can carry us a long way, and to a division title."
The Cubs crept to within a half-game of the Cardinals with one game remaining in their pulsating five-game series. They are one game behind Houston after the Astros beat Los Angeles 8-2 late Wednesday.
Shawn Estes, whom Baker has granted yet another reprieve, will face Brett Tomko in Thursday's finale.
"It's his turn," Baker said of the struggling left-hander. "And he's the only fresh arm I have."
Professional bungee jumpers have less adrenaline than Baker and St. Louis counterpart Tony La Russa displayed Wednesday. They traded profanity-laced insults from their respective dugouts after umpire Mike Reilly's warning in the third inning, which was prompted after Cardinals starter Dan Haren hit Matt Clement in the calf with a pitch, one inning after Clement had hit Haren.
Lip readers could tell Baker and La Russa weren't exchanging pleasantries.
"What was going on was there were some things he said in the papers that were pretty indicative that if it happened where a pitcher got hit
that someone was going to drill my pitcher," Baker said. "When Matty came up, the first one was at his legs and the next one hit him. It's hard to sell wolf tickets in the paper, and then when it happens say it was a mistake."
La Russa declined to address the incident.
"Anything that happened there I'd rather talk to Dusty about," La Russa said. "I'd rather talk to him personally."
The Cubs trailed 2-0 in the sixth with runners on second and third and two outs when Baker replaced Clement with rookie left-hander Felix Sanchez, who was making his major-league debut. Brought in to retire two lefty hitters, Sanchez instead walked Fernando Vina on four pitches and served up a grand slam to J.D. Drew, making it 6-0.
Alou's RBI single off Haren and Aramis Ramirez's two-run homer off Jeff Fassero sliced the deficit in half in the sixth. After Antonio Alfonseca gave up a run, Alou hit a two-run homer off Russ Springer in the seventh and Alex Gonzalez followed with a shot that made it 7-6.
"Today was a Wrigley Field day with that flag blowing out," Baker said.
Vina tripled off Mark Guthrie to lead off the eighth, but Guthrie sandwiched two outs around an intentional walk to Albert Pujols, and Joe Borowski (2-2) retired Scott Rolen on a fly ball to escape unharmed.
After Tony Womack's infield hit lead off the eighth and Kenny Lofton sacrificed him to second, La Russa called on Williams, who started Monday, to make his first relief appearance since 1996. Grudzielanek, who was hit in the right hand Tuesday in his first game back from a broken right hand, tripled to right-center, tying the game 7-7.
One out later, Alou's RBI single to left brought home the go-ahead run, handing the Cubs their biggest come-from-behind victory since June 22, 1999, when they came back from 9-1 at Colorado.
"It was a huge game," Alou said. "Down 6-0, this team showed a lot of heart. This is what we have to do for us to be a championship team."
Cubs 8, Cardinals 7